»Sign – Image – Object«


Marc Adrian, Ei Arakawa & Nikolas Gambaroff, Richard Artschwager, Josef Bauer, Martin Beck, Mel Bochner, Marcel Broodthaers, Gerard Byrne, Heinrich Dunst, Jenny Holzer, Lisa Holzer, Johanna Kandl, Michael Kienzer, Joseph Kosuth, Hans Kupelwieser, Thomas Locher, Oswald Oberhuber, Michael Part, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Anja Ronacher, Gerhard Rühm, Allen Ruppersberg, Stefan Sandner, Daniel Spoerri, Josef Hermann Stiegler, Josef Strau, Thaddeus Strode, Peter Weibel, Lawrence Weiner, Heimo Zobernig, Leo Zogmayer

in the context of  »Collection #3«, 21er Haus, Vienna, 2013


21er Haus, Vienna

June 21 — November 10, 2013


A museum collection reflects more than the historical vicissitudes of art purchasing policy: it also brings the programmatic direction of an institution into focus. At the 21er Haus, Austrian art is shown in an international context. Contemporary work is at the center of attention, supported by historical artworks which together with it represent a line of argument for its relevance in the here and now.

In order to make visible the diversity of the museum’s holdings, to rediscover artworks and think toward new relationships, the collection is reorganized at regular intervals. In the third presentation of the collection at the 21er Haus, the artworks are grouped into three areas, each of them centering on three concepts narrating localized histories of ideas that extend into the present.

Under the title Freedom – Form – Abstraction, works of Austrian postwar modernism are juxtaposed with contemporary artistic positions, demonstrating commonalities in both content and form. A second area directs the gaze toward the blurring of boundaries between Sign – Image – Object, thereby focusing attention on the structure of reception and its translation into language. Finally, Body – Psyche – Performativity addresses social norms and their transgression in art since the 1960s.


The area Sign – Image – Object attempts to capture the fruitful moments in which the boundaries between image and sign, writing and language, object and idea are transgressed.

What happens when image and sign collide, both being seen and read at the same time? What happens when an object no longer coincides with the beholder’s idea or mental representation of it? Is an image an object, a space of illusion, or itself a sign? When does a sign become an ornament, and can it completely lose its meaning when it is isolated or recontextualized? Can language be depicted without writing, or does it then remain a mute visualization?

To be explored is the interplay between signified and signifier, in other word between that which labels and that which is labeled, and the ambiguous status of sign, image and object, which has been thematized in art since the Conceptual movement of the 1960s. Not only do these queries address art and its reality; they also direct attention toward the process of perception. Outlines emerge of the ways in which we translate what we see into language, and of the interactions that are triggered in our thoughts by what we have seen.